What: Summer Organ Series
When/where: June 22, 29, July 6, 7: 30 p.m., Christ Church Cathedral
Tickets: $15; series $35. In person at Ivy's Bookshop, Munro's Books, Cadboro Bay Book Co., and the cathedral office (930 Burdett Ave.)
What: Victoria International Organ Festival
When/where: July 25, Alix Goolden Hall; July 26, Church of St. John the Divine; July 27, Christ Church Cathedral; all concerts 8 p.m.
Tickets: $25; series $65. Starting July 4 at Ivy's Bookshop, Long and McQuade, and the two church offices.
Victoria has a long history as an organ town, and the profile of the king of instruments has only risen here since the inauguration of two splendid organs: In 2005, Christ Church Cathedral purchased a new Hellmuth Wolff organ, the city's largest. Five years later, the Victoria Conservatory of Music marked the centenary of its 1910 Casavant Frères organ, housed in Alix Goolden Hall, by fully restoring the long-dormant instrument.
Christ Church's new toy has attracted some major performers to Victoria, and since acquiring it the cathedral has been more regularly presenting organ music. During the main concert season, it offers two major recitals by visiting organists as well as Friday lunchtime performances usually featuring its own organist, Michael Gormley, and in the summer it offers a series of three organ recitals.
The fifth annual summer series, which will run over the next three Friday evenings, will feature visiting virtuosos all performing here for the first time. The first two - SangGil Gu, a South Korean, who will perform Friday, and the Massachusettsborn Wesley Harrison Hall (June 29) - are advanced pupils at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, as well as church organists. The most experienced and only Canadian of the three, Thomas Gonder (July 6), is organist and director of music at the Church of the Transfiguration in Toronto.
Gu and Hall have both opted for highly diverse programs of music ranging from the 17th century to our own day.
Previous summer series have been well attended, in part because Christ Church offers the sort of visual stimulation most church-organ recitals lack. A large screen in front of the altar broadcasts a video feed of the organist in action in his loft - a feature that has earned positive feedback from audiences.
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The biggest organ event here in recent years was Pipes around the Pacific in the summer of 2010. Sponsored by the Royal Canadian College of Organists, this international festival, which included concerts, workshops, and other events, was held in conjunction with the RCCO's national convention. The RCCO will offer another concert series this summer, with three organists of international repute performing in late July. The series doubles as a tour of Victoria's noteworthy organs - those at Christ Church and the conservatory as well as the 1961 Casavant Frères instrument in the Church of St. John the Divine.
The series will be launched on July 25, at Alix Goolden Hall, by Peter Richard Conte, who, since 1989, has been grand court organist of the famous Wanamaker Organ, a century-old instrument housed in the Macy's department store in downtown Philadelphia.
Conte's program on July 25 should give the conservatory's organ a good workout. Besides standard repertoire (Bach, Rheinberger, Vierne), he will perform several transcriptions, including the popular overture to Leonard Bernstein's musical Candide and nothing less than Sibelius's tone poem Finlandia.
On July 26, David Enlow, organist and choirmaster of the Church of the Resurrection in New York, and a teacher at Juilliard, will perform at St. John the Divine, and on July 27, Isabelle Demers, a Juilliard graduate who lives in Montreal, will perform at Christ Church. They, too, will offer centuries-spanning programs of both standards and novelties: Demers will include her own arrangements of orchestral music by Mendelssohn and Prokofiev, while Enlow will offer an "improvised suite" on themes suggested by the audience.
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